Friday, August 31, 2012

Notes as we say goodbye to Summer, '12

It's the last day of August, thankfully. I can't remember a slower off season.

Despite the fact that the start of the NHL season might be in jeopardy due to the Sept. 15 expiration of the collective bargaining agreement, there have been some things to occupy our attention recently.

Jordan Ebelrle re-upped with Edmonton to the tune of $42M over seven years. The $6M per season equalled the contract of fellow top-line winger Taylor Hall who recently inked a 6yr./$36M contract.

Eberle came off a sparkling season in which he scored 34 goals and had 42 assists in 78 games. He bucked the "sophomore slump" by significantly increasing all of his numbers including going from a minus-12 to a plus-four.

Eberle was taken with the 22nd pick in the 2008 draft, four spots ahead of the Sabres' Tyler Ennis.


Ennis and the Sabres are presently negotiating a contract extension. Will Eberle's contract come into play? Possible. Is it warranted? Somewhat, but not really.

That Eberle had a stellar sophomore season is a given. But, the jump from $1.16M to $6M is a huge jump, and possibly a huge leap of faith on the part of the Oilers. Even Hall's $6M is a bit of a reach considering the fact that he's had injuries his first two seasons..

Make no mistake, the Oilers have some incredible talent with Hall, Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as well as 2012 #1 overall pick Nail Yakupov as four of their top-six.
But none of this should have any affect upon the negotiations between Ennis and the Sabres.

A more comparable contract would be that of Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene and his $3.5M cap hit. Both have comparable numbers, but question marks remain as to whether Ennis can play a top-six center role on the Sabres.

If we go back to Drew Stafford's first post-entry level contract for a $1.9M cap-hit, place Ennis below Duchene at $3.5M and add in some inflation due to the Eberle contract, Ennis should end up tucked right under Duchene, something similar to a 3yr./$10M contract.


Speaking of Edmonton and Buffalo, word on twitter is that the Oilers "#2" center, Sam Gagner is headed to the Sabres to take over the third-line center role.

Not sure exactly why, though. And can't understand the infatuation with a "playmaking center" who's had rather pedestrian numbers over the course of his NHL career.

Sure, the Sabres will need to replace some of the scoring they lost when they traded Derek Roy. But as seen in Roy's case, scoring doesn't necessarily lead to team success.

One should probably look somewhere else for the #3 center role and they may need to look no further than their own Zemgus Girgensons.

Colorado's Ryan O'Reilly made the immediate jump after being drafted #33 overall in the 2009 draft. Girgensons, like O'Reilly has a big frame, plays a two-way, north/south game and has has a ton of grit and toughness.

Gagner has very little of that.


Sabres Owner Terry Pegula is continuing with his hockey mission.

The first thing he did after selling his company two years ago was donate $88M to his Alma mater Penn State, for a D-1 hockey program.

He followed that up with the purchase of the Sabres then spent an off season sprucing up the First Niagara Center.

This past Wednesday it was announced that Pegula was the "preferred developer" for the Webster block, downtown close to the arena.

Artists rendition of Pegula's proposal
HARBORcenter Development, LLC, a Buffalo Sabres entity, announced plans for a $123M development which included two ice rinks and a hotel plus restaurant and retail space.

Groundbreaking is set for May, 2013 with an opening September, 2014.

Pegula has put the sport of hockey, the Sabres and now Buffalo on a much higher level with his passion for the sport and his strong financial commitments. Sabres fans should be thankful for an owner willing to do this. Also, not to be forgotten, fans should be thankful that former owner Tom Golisano rejected offers and settled on Pegula and his commitment to the Buffalo Sabres.


Pegula has oodles of money. And that's great. It allows his charges to dish out lavish contracts to free agents.

As shown in the contracts signed elsewhere this off season--from UFA's like Ryan Suter and Zach Parise to the re-signing of Hall and Eberle--the price of doing business went up in hockey.

The NHL and NHLPA are wrestling with a new CBA and, like all major sports, it's a battle between millionaires and billionaires.

WGR's Paul Hamilton was on the station Wednesday chiming in on the CBA.

Eventually everything will work itself out, but you're amiss if you think that any sense of "the real world" will add common sense to the negotiating process.

The logic has been used before:  owners and players should get into the real world.

Let's get one thing straight. Pegula will make more on the interest from his $3B net worth than Average Joe will make in multiple lifetimes.

Jordan Eberle and his $6M contract will make more in one game ($73,100) than most fans make in an entire year. In fact, at 20 mins per game, Eberle will be making roughly $3600 per minute, which is more than the many Average Joe's will make in a month.

Like with all entertainment, salary is relative. Owners and players, just like movie studios and actors are on a supremely higher level than Average Joe.

You can try to use "real world" as much as you want, but the fact of the matter is, tons of money is being thrown around, way more than Average Joe will be able to get their hands around and grasp.

"Real world" and major sports collective bargaining should never be used in the same sentence. The realities are just too extreme.


Hamilton spent the first half of the segment talking about the Bills and the back-up QB situation as well as the battle at WR.

Buffalo was in Detroit last night for the final preseason game. All NFL rosters need to be cut down to 53 players by 9PM tonight.

A few notes:
  • The Bills first team offense really did nothing until their first (and only series of the game) drive of the last preseason game at Detroit. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick went 5-for-5 and lead the team on an 11-play, 83 yard march culminating with a 3-yard TD pass to Stevie Johnson.
  • Should Bills fans consider that the real tune-up as opposed to Game-3 of the preseason? Yes. It matters not if they were blown out in Game-3 vs. Pittsburgh and eventually went 0-4. They came out relatively injury-free and this offense, which has been together for well over a year (with the benefit of a training camp this year as well) should be ready to roll in 10 days.
  • The defense will take some time, though. The line is strong and should only get better. The defensive backs are a work in progress. But, the linbacking corps is looking real shaky right now which could prove real troublesome should none of them step it up.
  • Can somebody please tell me what the obsession is with "wild-cat" QB/7th WR Brad Smith is? The Bills thought they could use his versatility and signed him after the Jets "low-balled" him in 2011. In his first season with the Bills he averaged 4.4 rush yards per attempt, and scored one TD on the ground. Not very wild, is it? For the year he had 23 receptions and one TD. And he attempted one pass. Not sure why they're so enamored with him.


A look at the 2008 NHL draft class thus far:

#1--Steven Stamkos, two "Rocket" Richard trophies for most goals in the season (2010, 2012.) Record for most goals in a season for Tampa Bay--60, 2012

#2--Drew Doughty, Stanley Cup Championship with Los Angeles 2011-12 season

#15--Erik Karlsson, Ottawa, 2012 Norris Trophy winner

A number of players log upper level minutes including Alex Pietrangelo (#4, St. Louis,) Tyler Myers (#12, Buffalo,) and Jordan Eberle (#22, Edmonton.) Others are starting to make their mark--Zach Bogosian (#3, Atlanta/Winnipeg) and Tyler Ennis (#26, Buffalo.) While like Cody Hodgson (#10 Vancouver, traded to Buffalo) and Michael Del Zotto (#20, NYR)  are making significant contributions.

Although it's not close to the 1979 or 2003 draft classes, it's shaping up to be a pretty solid one.


R.I.P Neil Armstrong.

One of the highlights of this summer was visiting the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum near Lima, OH.

I remember watching Armstrong setting foot on the moon on our old black and white TV set and was just enamored with it. It was a world-wide event.

Everything that ever could be said about Armstrong has already been said, but do yourself a favor, if your ever in the area, go check out the museum. Well worth it.

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